The English Defence League’s (EDL) hopes for a morale boosting success in Dudley were sorely disappointed last Saturday.
This was the EDL’s third protest in Dudley this year. It aims to stir up anti-Muslim racism in towns and cities across Britain.
But last Saturday’s mobilisation was significantly smaller than its previous rally in Dudley – down to around 600 from over 2,000 in April. Local people joined a protest against the EDL’s return.
EDL supporters vented their frustration by attacking shops, houses and a Hindu temple.
Opposition to the EDL has broadened. In April, the police and local authority told people to stay home.
This time, the council opposed the EDL rally. The leader of the Labour group, David Sparks, attended the counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and the Dudley Inter-faith forum.
Paul Singh, the convenor of Dudley UAF, said “The Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and black communities, as well as trade unionists, all supported our protest.
“People are clearer that the EDL just wants to start a race riot. They’re not welcome here.”
Local Muslims moved between the mosque and the rally – over 350 people mobilised against the EDL.
Groups of the EDL thugs broke through police lines and went on the rampage. They smashed the windows of houses, shops and cars.
Residents in the area are mainly white, but a Balti restaurant was targeted and its window smashed.
The EDL claims that it only opposes “Muslim extremists” but supporters showed their racist colours when they attacked the Hindu temple on King Street.
“Fifty or 60 of them broke down the fencing outside to get into the temple grounds,” Gian Narad, the temple’s treasurer told Socialist Worker.
“They threw bricks and stones at the building, smashing three windows. They also broke all the handrails and used them to attack the building. It was frightening for the people inside at the time.”
The police confirmed that they are investigating the attack.
The EDL also attacked UAF supporters. Daljit Nijjar came from Wolverhampton to attend the counter-protest on the day. The EDL attacked him and his friends as they returned to their cars to leave Dudley.
He said, “We were attacked by a small group throwing rocks at us. I became separated. I heard a roar and saw hundreds of EDL who were shouting ‘Paki’ and ‘UAF scum’.”
EDL supporters surrounded cars on King Street and intimidated those inside. One driver, who had at least one child in the car, appears to have hit some EDL members as he sought to escape.
The EDL then claimed that a member had been killed after being deliberately run over by a Muslim driver. In fact, no one suffered any life-threatening injuries as a result of the incident and reports suggest that the driver was not Muslim.
The support for the UAF-backed demonstration is very welcome. And it’s vital that the right of the Muslim community to build a new mosque is defended.
This is the issue the EDL has sought to exploit in Dudley. Planning permission has been refused for a new mosque.
Paul Jonson has worked as a community safety officer in Dudley for 15 years. He said that local political leaders have capitulated to the anti-Muslim hostility that was whipped up against the planned mosque.
Paul said, “They didn’t stand up for the interests of the whole community – they caved into the anti-mosque mood and compounded the situation.”
Dudley, like everywhere else, faces a government onslaught in the public sector, which could increase tensions in the area.
Jim Warner, secretary of Dudley Trades Council, told the crowd, “The government is coming for jobs, our pay and our services. If we don’t stand up and resist, the victims of their attacks will be prey for the fascists.”
The EDL’s violence and racism in Dudley underlines the need for anti-fascists to continue to oppose them.
The best way to do this is hold counter-protests that demand they get off the streets.
The next target for the EDL is Bradford on Saturday 28 August. They are describing this as the “big one”.
It’s crucial that the biggest possible numbers turn out to stop the EDL then. Every anti-fascist in Britain should put the date in their diary and local UAF groups should organise transport now.
Go to www.uaf.org.uk for more information